Archives For Single Window

Red Flags hang over BMA

August 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

Mesina-Beitbridge border crossing - Google MapsAccording to Eye Witness News, a draft law aimed at creating a new, overarching border control entity has run into problems.

Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee has been briefed on the Border Management Authority Bill by the department, the South African Police Service (Saps) and National Treasury.

Cabinet approved the Bill in September 2015 to deal with weaknesses in the state’s ability to secure the country’s ports of entry.

The Bill proposes harnessing the responsibilities of Home Affairs, the police and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) among others in one agency under a commissioner.

The authority will take over the customs control functions currently undertaken by the South African Revenue Service. There are fears within the industry that it could compromise SARS’s achievements in modernising its customs administration that has facilitated the movement of goods across the border.

Red flags have been raised by both the SA Police Service and National Treasury over the Border Management Authority Bill.

Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat says while they support a single border control body, SARS must remain in charge of customs and excise and revenue collection.

“We’re talking of significant revenue collection, and that is a speciality… The Bill is a framework, it’s important it doesn’t generate uncertainty for an important institution like SARS.

The authority will be governed by a commissioner and overseen by an interministerial consultative committee, a border technical committee and advisory committees.

The SAPS’ Major General David Chilembe says the Constitution says South Africa must have a single police force. He says it may have to be amended if the new border authority takes over policing duties.

Chilembe also says the police, and not Home Affairs, should lead the new entity. Source: EWN.

Advertisements

Wco CBM & Single Window WorkshopThe World Customs Organization (WCO), with the financial support of the Customs Administration of Saudi Arabia, successfully held a Regional Workshop on Coordinated Border Management (CBM), Single Window and the WCO Data Model in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 27 to 31 March 2016. Thirty seven middle management officials of the Customs Administrations from the MENA Region, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates participated in the Workshop. In addition, twelve officials of Customs’ Partner Agencies and two representatives from the private sector attended the event.

Mr. Abdulah AlMogehem, the Deputy Director General of the Customs Administration of Saudi Arabia in his opening remarks highlighted the importance of Single Window development by governments to simplify cross-border trade regulatory procedures which will reduce inefficiency and redundancy of border management processes.

The event highlighted the importance of CBM principles as the basis for the development of a Single Window Environment to enable coordination and cooperation between all relevant government agencies involved in border management. The Workshop also focused on the importance of strategic planning and formal governance structures in establishing a Single Window Environment. SA Revenue Service’s Intikhab Shaik incidentally facilitated the session and discussion on Single Window.

Other important topics included Business Process Re-engineering as well as Data Harmonization, using the WCO Data Model as the inter-operability framework to lay the foundation for CBM and Single Window. Source: WCO

WCO News N°78 - October 2015The October 2015 Edition focuses on the subject of e-Commerce, among’st other developments at the WCO. There’s a discussion on a new book which provides insight into the economic benefits of implementing a single window system, as well as a review of a book titled  ‘The Politics of Trade and Tobacco Control’.

Other articles include an overview of Russia’s Training Centre for NII System experts; Prospects for Africa’s Tripartite Free Trade Agreement in the light of lessons learned from the East African Community and a panorama of diverse discussion articles concerning Customs standards, education, and Customs response to challenges posed by a world of rampant crime and natural disasters. Download and enjoy! Source: WCO

WTO LogoThe following article is published with the kind permission of the author, Tapia Naula who is Principal Transport Economist at African Development Bank, based in the Ivory Coast. He is an international project manager and transport economist with experience in logistics business, research and trade facilitation. This article is a must for anyone associated with or working on the TFA on the African sub-continent, and a bit of a wake up call to those countries who have as yet done little or nothing to progress their participation.

In the World TFA Cup Asia is leading Africa 72 – 35. The first scores of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement are out as member countries submit their Category A notifications. Initial results of the African first series are somewhat unfulfilling. Some teams are playing defensive even if attacking tactic is the only way to win.

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. Among trade facilitation practitioners the Agreement was received with great enthusiasm: finally there was a legal instrument, which is concrete enough to make a difference! TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process. Section I contains substantive provisions in 12 main Articles. The members are required to categorize and notify each provision of the Agreement as either A, B or C Category. The A Category commits a country to implement the provision upon entry into force of the TFA, or one year after for LDC’s. For B-Category there will be a transitional period. C-Category provisions are allowed a transitional period, technical assistance and capacity building.

First, let it be said loud and clear: the WTO TFA is an excellent collection of modern trade and transport facilitation instruments in one folder. In developing countries its implementation would mean reforms that would save time, money and efforts for regular business people and consumers. These reforms may be painful but the countries that can do it, will be the future winners of their regional competition and they will be the ones that will most benefit from joining the global value chains. TFA is the best vehicle for poverty reduction invented so far and that is why it is so important.

In August, 2015, 14 African countries and 25 Asian countries had submitted notifications for category A provisions. Asian countries had “accepted” 72 % of all the provisions as A-Category commitments on average where the respective share of the African countries is only 35 %. On Article-level African countries lag behind on every Article except one (Table 1).

In addition to the low overall share of category A-notifications, the African notifications generally look like “random picks” of sub-paragraphs, compared to many Asian members that have commonly chosen the strategy of basically accepting the whole Agreement and making exceptions for certain few paragraphs according to their particular needs.

Were African governments well-informed of the impact and substance of each paragraph – or are they just being cautious, perhaps trying to delay the final commitment? The patterns between African and Asian countries are in any case different.

Table 1

TFA includes also “low hanging fruit” – sections that require little technical expertise to be implemented. At least some of these should have been easy for member countries to accept. “Publication and Availability of Information” is one of those sections. Access to information through internet is routine and affordable. It should not require transition periods or particular technical assistance. Donors are even competing to assist governments with such low cost and high-return activities. Still, less than one third of the African Governments notified this Article.

Here are some other peculiar findings:

  • Out of 14 African countries only Morocco accepted “Border Agency Cooperation” as A –Category provision. Three of the others countries that did not notify it are landlocked countries;
  • Only four out of 14 African countries had fully notified “Freedom of Transit.” Transit challenges in Africa are probably the single most significant source of inefficiency in trade logistics;
  • One of the foundations of modern customs management is the introduction of Risk Management. Only 3 out of 14 African countries had notified this provision;
  • Only Morocco notified Trade Facilitation Measures for Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), which gives certain privileges to traders and transport operators, who show high level of compliance to regulations. One wonders why Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania did not notify it as we know that an AEO program is being piloted in the East African Community;
  • Only Senegal notified the sub-Article on Single Window, which is probably the most important one of the whole Agreement. Senegal perhaps deserves this honor – being the first truly African-based single window country – and also representing the good practice of SW management. Yet, according to the African Alliance for e-Commerce, currently there are at least 16 other single windows either already operational or under development in Africa. Why weren’t these developments recognized?

Despite the above “peculiarities” the African situation is fortunately nowhere near as somber as the A-Category notifications indicate. There are plenty of trade and transport facilitation initiatives under implementation – and Africa is indeed “on the Move.” We should on one hand side make sure that the valuable TFA Agreement is not becoming a separate formal process alongside the practical actions on the ground, but rather a framework for coaching governments in climbing up the stairs toward greater competitiveness. On the other hand, the countries should not ignore the existing achievements. A lot has been achieved in Africa in recent years and this process should go on and gain speed. Some sub-regions, which have been less successful in this field need  benchmarks, encouraging and coaching. This is where African and international organizations can play a role.

Although the direct cost of TFA implementation is relatively low, the indirect cost may be extremely high. The indirect cost concerns existing structures, which generate income for organizations and individuals, who often greatly benefit from the status quo. Some governments have entered into concessions outsourcing critical government functions such as pre-customs clearance operations and processing and submissions of declarations to customs. Western firms have efficiently seized the opportunity and negotiated deals, which guarantee profits for in many cases for decades to come. Single Windows in certain countries are good examples for these. In an unnamed Southern African country for example, humanitarian aid is exempt from taxes and duties in import. If however a UN agency for example imports a container of pharmaceuticals worth five million USD, it will have to pay for a Single Window fee of 42,500 USD! Such Ad Valorem fee arrangements are against the TFA. Such concessions are often built inside structures, which profit from the concessions and in exchange – protects its operations and continuity. This is why they are difficult to tackle. This is an example of the problematics that African policy makers must deal with when taking a position in committing in TFA provisions. It may be a whole lot more complicated than what it looks like.

Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.
Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.

The diagram above shows the association of share of the provisions that have been covered by A-Category notifications and the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of the countries. For African countries the correlation is moderate (correlation co-efficient: 0.42) but for Asian countries the association is strong (correlation co-efficient: 0.73). The association of the two variables is understandable: the less corruption a country has (the higher the CPI rank is), the more reforms the government is in liberty to conduct (the higher coverage of TFA as A-category Notifications).

We need to better understand the underlying reasons why policymakers cannot let reforms take off. Traditions, corruption and outdated structures are usually the biggest obstacles. These cannot be overcome by merely providing short-term technical assistance and bench-marking the world best practices but only strong political leadership can make the change. Developing partners should raise this topic on the highest political level and “live together” through the reforms with the counterparts.

The Northern Corridor (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) provides an encouraging example how multiple reforms can be carried out in very short time. Only two years ago it took staggering 27 days to transport a container from Mombasa Port and deliver it in Kigali, Rwanda. Today it takes only seven days. The improvement was enabled by series of reforms, which were championed by the Heads of States of the Corridor member countries. The example proves that major improvements can indeed be achieved in very short time. On the other hand, even with the most sophisticated instruments, reforms will not succeed if there the high-level ownership is not there. Author: Tapio Naula

Ivory Coast SEW2As Customs and Border regulatory authorities ramp up their commitment to international agreements, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, SAFE Framework of Standards and the more recent WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, more countries will offer a single point of entry through which traders, international carriers and logistics providers can access and comply with the resident customs and other government regulatory regimes.

The concept of a Single Window is borne out of the fact that traditional import/export and related regulatory requirements pose a barrier to market entry for international goods. There are many derivatives of Single Window in operation globally. Perhaps the best resource for this can be found on the UNECE’s interactive Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide webpage. One can navigate to the case studies page to read up on a country-by-country experience on various trade reforms including Single Window developments.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of many African countries who have introduced Single Window as a facilitation measure whereby international trade can interface with Customs in a number of ways. It consists of a web-based trade portal (operated by Webb Fontaine) which interfaces with AsycudaWorld (AW), Côte d’Ivoire Customs’ management system. The portal allows traders to key-in advance import/export information within an electronic document called TVF (Trade Virtual Folder). Customs declarations are then subjected to tariff classification  and valuation, thereafter routed for commercial/risk assessment and revenue accounting on AsycudaWorld, or Sydam World as it is known in Côte d’Ivoire.

Commercial banks use the TVF within the Single Window to endorse the settlement of each import; the Ministry of Commerce subsequently authorizes the overall transaction through the system.

The Single Window provides an entry point for traders and supply chain operators to accomplish various Customs formalities such as –

  • Customs Declaration processing – allowing importers and exporters to electronically file clearances.
  • Manifest operations – used by all carriers to upload their XML manifests and register the same through the trade portal directly into AsycudaWorld. The facility also allows the amendments of waybills (e.g. excess and shortages) and automatically synchronizes the operations with the AW system. The Port Authority IT systems, including the Port of Abidjan and the Port of San Pedro, automatically receive and integrate the manifests submitted by carriers.
  • License module – allows traders to request import/export licenses (regulatory permits) that are later on approved online by the relevant ministries. Each license comprises a list of regulated products, quota allowable amount based on a predefined scheme (gross mass, net mass, FOB, Unit of measurement or unlimited quota). Further developments will include the automatic write-off of license quota by declarations using the Declaration module.

Source: Webb Fontaine

PAUL-KAGAME-WINDOW-SYSTEMPresident Paul Kagame yesterday launched Kenya National Electronic Single Window System seen as a major boost for regional trade since it will simplify clearance processes of goods.

The launch was part of the activities of the 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit held in Nairobi, and was attended by Presidents Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Kaguta of Uganda, as well as the second vice president of Burundi and Tanzania’s prime minister.

Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya – which heavily rely on the Kenyan port of Mombasa – are spearheading a series of joint projects aimed at fast tracking regional development through joint infrastructure, trade and political and economic integration.

The use of Electronic Single Window System is expected to centralise trade services such as tracking of goods, custom clearance, and electronic payment including through mobile money.

The system will also integrate with Kenya Revenue Authority, making the clearance at Kenyan ports a lot faster and easier.

“I just want to reiterate how this is one of many important projects that the East African Community partner states have undertaken to deepen integration that we have been seeking, make business more efficient, and lower the cost of doing business as we move forward,” Kagame said at the launch.

Making tech tick

He reiterated Rwanda’s “continued active participation towards making integration a reality.” President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto described the Single Window System as yet another building bloc in the EAC integration process.

“Our ultimate vision should be to implement an EAC Regional Single Window platform. The benefits from this initiative may not be fully realised unless all of us in the region adopt National Single Window Systems.

“Our brothers in Rwanda are already implementing a Single Window System and similar efforts are underway in Tanzania and Uganda,” Kenyatta said.

The Kenyan leader said the technology will make it possible for traders to submit information about their goods to multiple government agencies in multiple locations, making business faster and more efficient.

After the launch of the Kenya National Electronic Single Window System, also known as Kenya TradeNet, the Heads of State and Government discussed the progress of several other projects under the Northern Corridor initiative. Source: AllAfrica.com

WCO News Feb 2014The theme of this edition is predictably about “communication”. For a change I was fortunate enough to receive a hard copy (print) version. Nonetheless, it is more accessible to the masses electronically via the WCO website. The Secretary General discusses the role of ‘communication’ in the dissemination of critical information whether it be via internet portals, social media and the evolving myriad of technology based trade facilitation tools. In this particular regard, the number of emerging countries registering their participation through customs-specific trade information portals and the adoption of electronic Single Window platforms is becoming common place.

The playing fields between the developed and under-developed world are beginning to be leveled so to speak. Harmonisation and standardization via computer systems is beginning to mature to an extent un-thought of just a few years back. While mainstream declaration processing engines will still be required to ‘crunch’ the vast volumes of customs transactional information, it is the era of ‘Apps’ which will prove to offer niche service offerings to the business community. For instance, many vendors offer HS tariff search and duty calculators. Some Customs and Border Administrations provide traders with transaction status notifications and other advice via SMS. Above all this, the Secretary General still emphasizes the importance of the human element — to make sure that communication remains a two-way process which fosters cooperation.

Featured articles include an overview of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation. There are also several articles concerning communication strategy, business recovery and the role of Customs Brokers in the improvement of communication and cooperation. Read also about Single Window developments and a glimpse into the future of border technologies. Source: WCO

Picture1The Japanese-funded e-Customs system known as “VNACCS/VCIS” (Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and the Vietnam Customs Information System) is set to “go live” on April 1, 2014.

Based on the NACCS/CIS of Japan, VNACCS/VCIS is intended to handle e-Declaration, e-Manifest, e-Invoice, e-Payment, e-C/O, selectivity, risk management/criteria, corporate management, goods clearance and release, supervision and inspection.

With the launch of the VNACCS/VCIS, Vietnam Customs is trying to simplify customs clearance procedures, reduce clearance time, enhance the management capacity of customs authorities in line with the standards of modern customs, as well as to cut costs and facilitate trade. VNACCS/VCIS also purports to ensure Vietnam’s compliance with the ASEAN “single window” initiative.

VNACCS/VCIS is intended to improve on the current e-Customs system. For example, the VNACCS/VCIS provides new procedures for the management of pre-clearance, clearance and post-clearance processes, adds new customs procedures such as registration of the duty exemption list, introduces a combined procedure for both commercial and non-commercial goods, simplifies procedures for low unit value goods and offers new management procedures for temporarily exported/imported goods, etc.

After the testing phase (which took place from November 2013 until the end of February 2014), users have been raising concerns regarding the VNACCS/VCIS system’s complexity. VNACCS/VCIS provides a declaration process with 109 export and 133 import data fields, compared to the current 27 export and 38 import declaration fields. Many of them are not compatible with the actual systems of companies, and appear to require from declarers an extensive knowledge of customs-related matters.

Comment – from an outsider’s perspective, besides systems testing, it would seem to appear that insufficient time has been allocated for alignment of industry systems to Vietnam Customs’ new data requirements. This, and the fact that no ‘grace period’ (waiver of sanctions or penalties) will be considered by the customs administration does not bode well for a smooth transition.

VNACCS/VCIS employs the quantity reporting mechanism in the official Units of Measures (“UOMs”), often used in international trade statistics, yet creates significant obstacles to companies that do not have compatible manufacturing, inventory planning and control systems. Vietnam Customs has stated that it will work on improving this issue.

VNACCS/VCIS also applies the declaration of customs values at the unit level. Since unit costs and unit prices used in financial systems of companies may not always be identical to declared values, companies may fail to comply with such requirement. Sanctions may be applied from day 1 of the new systems activation.

Technical difficulties are also a matter of great concerns to business community, e.g. with asset tracking. Currently under VNACCS/VCIS, reporting is limited to 7 digits, incompatible with many companies having asset tracking systems with identification numbers of up to 20 digits. To address concerns raised by the business community about the new system, Japanese experts have agreed to support Vietnam Customs 1 year after the official implementation date of the system.

There are concerns for potential risks of non-compliance for wrong declaration due to lack of an adequate understanding of VNACCS/VCIS. Vietnam Customs has rejected a proposal for “grace period” before applying sanctions upon violations, but encourages companies to actively participate in training programs organized by customs authorities to better avoid potential non-compliance risks.

Another concern is the chance of system failure which may lead to severe interruptions and delays in clearance procedures. Vietnam Customs has ensured business community that they have a back-up contingency mechanism in place to support customs procedures in the event that VNACCS/VCIS fails to operate properly. In the meantime, a new circular detailing the implementation of VNACCS/VCIS is being drafted and should come into effect by the launch date. Various business associations are still trying to find ways to mitigate the likely disruption from the sudden transition to the new system. Source: Baker & McKenzie (Vietnam)

Secretary General Mikuriya during a courtesy visit paid to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan (WCO)

Secretary General Mikuriya during a courtesy visit paid to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan (WCO)

At the invitation of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde, the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Nigeria on 17 and 18 February 2014 to observe Customs transformation activities after the termination of Destination Inspection contracts on 1 December 2013.

In Lagos, the Secretary General went to Apapa Port, Nigeria’s major port, to see Customs operations and also to visit the Customs Training Centre for a mentorship talk with young officers: the NCS has recruited many recent university graduates and trained them in computer and other necessary skills.

Secretary General Mikuriya also presided over a Stakeholder Forum to interact with the private sector. The business community were supportive of the ongoing Customs transformation programme that was enhanced by an improved communication strategy for Customs, the use of information technology – the Nigeria Trade Hub – and the implementation of modern Customs methods, such as risk management.

The private sector also suggested better use of a database for risk management purposes, including valuation, and expressed their hope for the introduction of coordinated border management and a Single Window to simplify the multiplicity of regulations and inspections at borders.

The Secretary General also travelled to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, and was joined by three heads of Customs from neighbouring countries, namely Benin, Ghana and Niger, who wanted to learn from NCS’s experience and obtain Nigeria’s support, as well as that of the WCO, for terminating contracts with inspection companies in order to regain ownership of core Customs functions.

The Secretary General also paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.  As a former Customs official early in his career, the President talked fondly of his visit to the WCO to attend the 2012 Council Sessions and particularly noted the WCO’s strong and inspirational leadership. He also acknowledged the economic and social contribution of Customs to the nation, and promised to continue to support Customs reform in Nigeria and provide guidance and influence at the regional level. Source: WCO

Nigeria Trade Hub 2The WCO Single Window Experts Accreditation Workshop took place on 23rd – 27th September, 2013 at Customs Border Control Training Centre (CBCTC), Seoul, Korea. The objectives of the workshop included:

  • Promoting the work of Single Window
  • Developing expertise meant for executive management
  • Developing different expertise in other technical areas of Single Window.

Developing this expertise brought about the WCO Data Model and SW accreditation Workshop as there are several areas where experts can emerge, including areas of Business processes, Legal, Data Model etc. The past efforts in capacity building served as a guide to developing the program for the workshop. The expectation included shaping assistance and building capacity in the areas of Single Window.

The participants included representatives from Nigeria, Mauritius, Chile, Singapore, Tanzania, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Russia Federation, Saudi Arabia and Korea. Three out of the ten participants (Nigeria, Singapore, Mauritius) were accredited Co-Facilitator Status for the World Customs Organization at the end of the workshop. This demonstrates that Nigeria is certainly moving in the right direction and aligning to International Standards. Source: Nigeria Trade Hub

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherme Mambo has just been appointed Director General Mozambique Customs on the 10th May 2013. Until then he was Board Director of MCNet – Mozambique Community Network the PPP responsibly for implementation of Electronic Single Window for customs clearance in Mozambique where he were responsible for implementation and operations. In recent months he has lead Mozambique’s bi-lateral engagement on IT-Connectivity and Data Exchange with his counterparts at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

For the past 10 years Mambo served as director IT Mozambique Customs and then for Mozambique Revenue Authority. On this role he participated in various modernization projects aimed at improving the business environment in Mozambique through improvement of public services particularly the complete organizational transformation of customs and internal tax areas.

Prior to working with customs and MRA, he worked in aviation industry and a UN lead project in Chechnya, Liberia, Angola were he was exposed multifaceted international experience.

As Director General – Mozambique Customs his responsibility is to manage the General Directorate of Customs (DGA) a paramilitary organization with around 2000 staff, one of the two major collectors of government revenue derived from external trade largely from customs duty, excise duty and the Value Added Tax (IVA).  DGA is also a law enforcement agency that undertakes the control of imports and exports for the protection of revenue to prevent evasion of duties and taxes and assists in the promotion of the community’s well-being to prevent the smuggling of controlled, prohibited and restricted goods (such as illicit narcotic drugs and firearms). The Director General heads the DGA and his assisted by three Deputy Director General each of one have a specific area of responsibility.

Customs' JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs  and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

Customs’ JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs
and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

The Joint Border Management System (JBMS) programme is a replacement information system that will meet New Zealand’s future border management needs. Comprising a set of integrated information technology products, owned and hosted by Customs and jointly operated with the MPI, it will give Customs, MPI and industry better information and risk-assessment tools to protect New Zealand’s society, trade and biosecurity.

“An agile, effective and efficient border management system is essential for protecting New Zealand from economic, social and environmental harm, for maintaining and improving our international competitiveness, and for collecting over $9 billion a year of government revenue,” says Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake. “We need a system that keeps us secure, can handle increasing numbers of people, goods and craft, and meets trading partners’ expectations of integrated systems.”

The JBMS will ultimately provide a single electronic point of contact – the Trade Single Window (TSW) – through which the import and export industry can deal directly with government agencies for customs and biosecurity requirements, and Customs and MPI can more effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border.

Companies will be able to submit a single application to both Customs and MPI to lodge import declarations. It’s faster and more efficient. And they can do so directly, not through a third party like they do now.”

The key functions of the Single Window were to have been progressively available to industry from April 2013, however, Customs said it would take three months longer than it originally anticipated for importers and exporters to experience any benefits from the initial $75 million investment in a new Joint Border Management computer system, JBMS.  IBM had been due to deliver the first tranche of JBMS, which is a joint initiative between Customs and the Primary Industries Ministry, last month. Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake said the agencies had decided to push back the launch and deliver the project in stages. Click here for more details.

Risk management

Customs has taken a phased approach to designing and building the JBMS programme to ensure secure information management and to enable Customs to manage the risks of turning on a major new IT system. “Each stage – or tranche – will be thoroughly tested with industry until it is performing as expected. Industry will be able to migrate over to the new system over time. Our current systems will remain in place until the new system is fully proven,” Mr Lake adds.

Tranche 1 has been funded by the government and has been underway since July 2011. Costs of the JBMS are shared with industry, and cost recovery charges will start from 1 July.

“From April, the system will support border agencies to use shared information to work collaboratively in analysing travellers and goods. This will allow border agencies to target risk more accurately and will therefore provide greater consistency and certainty in the end-to-end border clearance process for all goods,” Mr Lake says.

In the second tranche, Customs plans to fully replace all background systems, and add further enhancements and the remaining business functions to the TSW. The second tranche is subject to further government approval and funding.

Trade Single Window

The TSW is one of the major components of the JBMS and will enable parties involved in international trade and transport to submit the craft and cargo clearance data that is required by New Zealand’s border agencies electronically, once, through one entry point. They will also be able to register themselves as users of the TSW, and maintain their own details.

As part of the first tranche, the TSW will include registration (of customers and users), most lodgements (craft and cargo clearances, such as import and export entries, and cargo reports), status enquiries and response functions. In the second tranche, Customs and MPI will investigate options for providing further functions, including remaining lodgements, a reference library, information updates, transaction history and other payments. Customs and MPI are also working on a plan to join up MPI’s animal products and plant export certification systems to the TSW.

“The TSW is expected to deliver significant benefits to importers, exporters and others in the international trade supply chain,” Mr Lake says. “These will include improved coordination of processes and earlier certainty of border agency requirements when advance data is provided. Compliant traders will be able to get their goods through the border with greater speed, consistency and certainty. However, the potential benefits for industry will depend on how individual participants use the information from the TSW to make their supply chains more effective and efficient.” The JBMS is expected to deliver significant benefits to the import and export industry over the next 10–15 years. Source: www.ftdmag.co.nz

For further information also visit New Zealand Customs website – Joint Border Management System (JBMS)

 

Australian Customs hosted visits from three international experts on trade data harmonisation - Bill Nolle, Dietmar Jost and Eric Sunstrum.

Australian Customs hosted visits from three international experts on trade data harmonisation – Bill Nolle, flanked by Dietmar Jost and Eric Sunstrum of the WCO.

It is with sadness we [WCO] learnt that our former colleague, the former Chairperson of the DMPT passed away on 29 December 2012 after a brief period of illness. He was fighting a very aggressive cancer.

Bill Nolle was a fabulous contributor to our [WCO] area of work and he has left his imprint in many aspects of our work at the Data Model Project Team and the Information Management Sub Committee. Version 3.0 of the WCO Data Model owes its richness and quality thanks to Bill’s splendid contribution. Bill authored the WCO Single Window Data Harmonization Guidelines/ UN/CEFACT Recommendation 34.  We [WCO] owe it to Bill the methodology of Gather-Define-Analyze-Reconcile for data simplification and harmonization. Bill brought passion to his work. His speeches and interventions were always intense and engaging and he will be missed in his professional environment.

His legacy includes an eLearning module in which you can hear him explain how data harmonization was carried out in Jordan. The module remains a favorite for the professional users and trainers alike.

Bill retired from US Customs and Border Protection where he worked for 30 years. He and his wife moved to the Outer Banks from Frederick, MD in 2009, to be near the beach that he loved. At the time of his death he was employed by Nathan Associates Incorporated and Crown Agents as a consultant. Bill travelled extensively during his tenures with US Customs and Border Protection, Nathan Incorporated, and Crown Agents, making friends on each continent in the world.

The following obituary was posted by a colleague in Jordan –

Bill has been a breath of fresh air that visited our country (Jordan), every once in a while as Customs Consultant. He was an inspiration and a driving force to all,  giving advice when needed, and always willing to help. A proud husband, father and (Opa), that we felt his family was our own, Not to forget, a professional Pita Bread baker,  we were hoping to someday try. One would think, God loved him so,  and wanted him closer more. Bill will always be in our hearts,  a father figure, a teacher, and a colleague holding one of the greatest hearts I’ve known. My deepest condolences to his loving family, and may he rest in peace.   Posted by: Juliette Najjar – Amman – Jordan – Friend / Colleague   Jan 17, 2013.

Sources: WCO, Gallup Funeral Services, and www.tributes.com

I post this article given it ties together many of the initiatives which I have described in previous articles. The appears to be an urgency to implement these initiatives, but the real question concerns the sub-continent’s ability to entrench the principles and maintain continuity. At regional fora its too easy for foreign ministers, trade practitioners and the various global and financial lobbies to wax lyrical on these subjects. True there is an enormous amount of interest and ‘money’ waiting to be ploughed into such programs, yet sovereign states battle with dwindling skills levels and expertise. Its going to take a lot more than talk and money to bring this about.

South Africa is championing an ambitious integration and development agenda in Southern Africa in an attempt to advance what Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies describes as trade and customs cooperation within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional trade organisations.

Central to pursuing this intra-regional trade aspiration are a series of mechanisms to combine market integration and liberalisation efforts with physical cross-border infrastructure and spatial-development initiatives. Also envisaged is greater policy coordination to advance regional industrial value chains. “Trade facilitation can be broadly construed as interventions that include the provision of hard and soft infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods, services and people across borders, with SACU remaining the anchor for wider integration in the region,” Davies explains.

This approach is also receiving support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid), which recently hosted the Southern African Trade Facilitation Conference, held in Johannesburg.

Trade programme manager Rick Gurley says that virtually every study on trade in sub- Saharan Africa identifies time and cost factors of exporting and importing as the most significant constraints to regional trade potential. Limited progress has been made by SADC member States and SACU partners to tackle the factors undermining trade-based growth, limiting product diversification and increasing the price of consumer goods, including of foodstuffs. However, far more would need to be done to realise the full potential of intra-regional trade.

Regional Alliance
One high-profile effort currently under way is the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA), which seeks to facilitate greater trade and investment harmonisation across the three existing regional economic communities of the SADC, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community.

The existing SADC FTA should be fully implemented by the end of the year, with almost all tariff lines traded duty-free and, if established, the T-FTA will intergrate the markets of 26 countries with a combined population of nearly 600-million people and a collective gross domestic product (GDP) of $1-trillion. At that size and scale, the market would be more attractive to investors and could launch the continent on a development trajectory, Davies avers. It could also form the basis for a later Africa-wide FTA and a market of some $2.6-trillion.

However, as things stand today, intra- regional trade remains constrained not merely by trade restrictions but by a lack of cross-border infrastructure, as well as poor coordination and information sharing among border management agencies such as immigration, customs, police and agriculture.Cross-national connectivity between the customs management systems is also rare, often requiring the identical re-entry of customs declarations data at both sides of the border, causing costly and frustrating delays.

USAid’s regional economic growth project, the Southern African Trade Hub, is a strong proponent of the introduction of several modern trade-facilitation tools throughout the SADC – a number of which have already been successfully pioneered. These tools, endorsed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Framework of Standards, which offers international best-practice guidelines, are aimed at tackling the high costs of exporting and importing goods to, from, and within Southern Africa, which has become a feature of regional trade and discouraged international investment.

Bringing up the Rear
A country’s competitiveness and the effec- tiveness of its trade facilitation regime are measured by its ranking on World Bank indices and, with the exception of Mozambique, Southern African States perform poorly – with most in the region settling into the lowest global quartile of between 136 and 164, out of a total of 183. “Our transaction costs in Africa across its borders are unacceptably high and inhibit trade by our partners in the private sector,” says WCO capacity building director Erich Kieck. “We need our States to develop good ideas and policies, but the true test lies in their ability to implement them,” he notes.

He adds that not only does trade facilitation require efficient customs-to-customs connectivity, but also demands effective customs-to-business engagement, adding that, while customs units are responsible for international trade administration, they are not responsible for international trade. “The private sector is the driver of economic activity and international trade, and government’s responsibility is to understand the challenges faced by the business community and develop symbiotic solutions,” Kieck notes.

Despite the establishment of regional trade agreements and regional economic communities in Southern Africa, many partner- ships have failed to deliver on their full potential to increase domestic competitiveness.

In a report, African Development Bank (AfDB) senior planning economist Habiba Ben Barka observes that, despite the continent’s positive GDP growth record – averaging 5.4% a year between 2005 and 2010 – it has failed to improve its trading position or integration into world markets. In 2009, Africa’s contribution to global trade stood at just under 3%, compared with nearly 6% for Latin America and a significant 28% for Asia.

“Since 2000, a new pattern of trade for the continent has begun to take centre stage, as Africa has witnessed an upsurge in its trade with the emerging Brazil, Russia, India and China economies. Overall, Africa is trading more today than in the past, but that trade is more with the outside world than internally,” says Ben Barka. She adds that while many African regional economic communities have made some progress in the area of trade facilitation, much greater effort is required to harmonise and integrate sub-regional markets.

To address enduring trade barriers, consensus among business, government and trade regulators appears to lean towards the adoption of one or a combination of five facilitation tools. These include the National Single Window (NSW), the One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), cloud-based Customs Connectivity, Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and Customs Modernisation Tools.

A National Single Window
NSWs connect trade-related stakeholders within a country through a single electronic-data information-exchange platform, related to cross-border trade, where parties involved in trade and transport lodge standardised trade-related information or documents to be submitted once at a single entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.Mauritius was the first SADC country to implement the NSW and consequently improved its ranking on the ‘Trading Across Borders Index’ to 21 – the highest in Africa. It was closely followed by Ghana and Mozambique, which have also reported strong improvements.

Developed in Singapore, the benefits of government adoption include the reduction of delays, the accelerated clearance and release of goods, predictable application, improved application of resources and improved transparency, with several countries reporting marked improvement in trade facilitation indicators following the NSW implementation.

In South Africa, the work on trade facili-tation is led by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which focuses on building information technology (IT) connectivity among the SACU member States, and strengthen- ing risk-management and enforcement measures. However, SARS’ approach to the NSW concept remains cautious, Davies explains. “SARS has considered the viability of this option as a possible technological support for measures to facilitate regional trade, but considers that this would fall outside the scope of its current approach and priorities in the region,” he said.

One-Stop Border Posts
As reported by Engineering News in December last year, effective OSBPs integrate the data, processes and workflows of all relevant border agencies of one country with those of another, which culminates in a standardised operating model that is predictable, trans- parent and convenient. An OSBD success story in Southern Africa is the Chirundu border post, where a collaboration between the Zambia and Zimbabwe governments has culminated in a single structure, allowing officers from both States to operate at the same location, while conducting exit and entry procedures for both countries.

Launched in 2009, this OSBP model is a hybrid of total separation, joint border operations and shared facilities in a common control zone. Implementation of the model has reduced clearance times to less than 24 hours, significantly reduced fraudulent and illegal cross-border activity, enabled increased information sharing between border agencies and reduced the overall cost of export and import activities in the area.

Earlier this year, former South African Transport Minister Sibusisu Ndebele indicated that Cabinet was looking into establishing a mechanism that would bring all border entities under a single command and control structure to address the fragmentation in the country’s border operations, particularly at the high-traffic Beitbridge post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. “The ultimate vision is to create one-stop border operations to facilitate legitimate trade and travel across the borders,” he said.

Customs Connectivity and Data Exchange
Improved connectivity between customs limbs in sub-Saharan Africa has perhaps made the most indelible strides in the region, with improved IT connectivity between States identified as a priority by Sacu.

This includes customs-to-customs inter- connectivity, customs-to-business inter- connectivity and interconnectivity between customs and other government agencies. SACU members have agreed to pursue the automation and interconnectivity of their customs IT systems to enable the timely electronic exchange of data between administrations in respect of cross-border movement of goods. “As a consequence of this acquiescence, we have identified two existing bilateral connectivity programmes as pilot projects to assess SACU’s preferred connectivity approach, cloud computing between Botswana and Namibia and IT connectivity between South Africa and Swaziland,” says SACU deputy director for trade facilitation Yusuf Daya. He adds that a regional workshop was recently convened to explore business processes, functions, data clusters and the application of infrastructure at national level to improve and develop intra-regional links.

Coordinated Border Management
The SADC has been a strong proponent of CBM efforts in the region, which promotes coordination and cooperation among relevant authorities and agencies involved in, specifically, the protection of interests of the State at borders. “The union has drafted CBM guidelines for its members on implementation, based on international best practice, and has received indications of interest from several member States,” explains SADC Customs Unit senior programme officer Willie Shumba.He adds that CBM is a key objective of regional integration, enabling the transition from an FTA to a customs union and, eventually, to a common market, through effective controls of the internal borders.

Customs Modernisation
South Africa’s customs modernisation initiative is well advanced and came about following Sars’ accession to the WCO’s revised Kyoto Convention in 2004, which required customs agencies to make significant changes to it business and processing models. These changes included the introduction of simplified procedures, which would have fundamental effects on and benefits for trade and would require a modern IT solution.

Since its inception, the SARS Customs Modernisation Programme has gained tremendous momentum, with amendments to the Passenger Processing System and the replacement of SARS’s Manifest Acquittal System in the Automated Cargo Management system. Further adjustments were made to enable greater ease of movement of goods, faster turnaround times and cost savings, as well as increased efficiency for SARS. This phase included the introduction of an electronic case-management system, electronic submission of supporting documents, the centralisation of back-end processing in four hubs and an electronic release system and measures to enhance the flow of trucks through borders – in particular at the Lebombo and Beitbridge borders.

Proper Planning
AfDB’s Ben Barka warns that, prior to the implementation of any border improvement efforts by countries in Southern Africa, a thorough analysis and mapping of each agency’s existing procedures, mandate and operations should be undertaken.“Based on these findings, a new set of joint operational procedures need to be agreed upon by all involved agencies and must comply with the highest international standards,” she says.

Development coordination between States is essential, as the largest disparity among regional groupings, in terms of intra-regional trade, is clearly attributable to their differentiated levels of progress in various areas, including the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the freedom of movement of persons across borders and the development of efficient infrastructure. Source: Engineering News.

UNECE-Trade Facilitation Implementation GuideHaving spent the better part of the last fortnight amongst customs authorities and implementors of Single Window, I’m compelled to share with you a site (if you have not already been there) which attempts in a simple but comprehensive way to articulate the concept and principles of Trade Facilitation and its relationship and connotation with Single Window. The UNECE Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide should come as a welcomed resource, if not a companion, to trade facilitation practitioners and more specifically Customs Authorities wishing to embark on a trade facilitation approach. Of course it is a very useful reference for the many avid scholars on customs and trade matters across the global village. Of particular interest are the case studies – two of which feature African countries (Mozambique and Senegal) – providing a welcomed introduction of trade facilitation and Single Window on our continent. It is good to note that Single Window has less to do with technology and more to do with inter-governmental and trade relationships and an understanding of how these are meant to co-exist and support one another  – Enjoy!

Trade facilitation is emerging as an important factor for international trade and the economic development of countries. This is due to its impact on competitiveness and market integration and its increasing importance in attracting direct foreign investments. Over the last decade, it has gained prominence in the international political agenda as part of the ongoing WTO multilateral trade negotiations as well as of wide international technical assistance programs for developing and transition economies.

The primary goal of trade facilitation is to help make trade across borders faster and cheaper, whilst ensuring its safety and security. In terms of focus, it is about formalities, procedures, and the related exchange of information and documents between the various partners in the supply chain. For UNECE and its UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), trade facilitation is “the simplification, standardization and harmonization of procedures and associated information flows required to move goods from seller to buyer and to make payment”. Such a definition implies that not only the physical movement of goods is important in a supply chain, but also the associated information flows. It also encompasses all governmental agencies that intervene in the transit of goods, and the various commercial entities that conduct business and move the goods. This is in line with discussions on trade facilitation currently ongoing at the WTO. Source: UNECE